Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Fireworks and stalwarts: my top 20 songs of 2008

In a year which has seen more firework artists than ever before - bang, they explode onto the scene and in a flash they're gone - there was some great music but no substance. As soon any new acts try to take root we're onto something else: something newer and shinier. It's an unfortunate byproduct of an industry which has yet to mix the right cocktail of time, finance, product and consumers. Blogs like this pounce on new music because there never seems to be anything but. Forget all that crap about fan power and the power of the bloggers launching acts. Music blogs are a foothold admittedly, but I give full credit to Robyn herself (and Pete Tong) for breaking through for the second time. The wise old bird used her knowledge of the old music industry, mixed it with the new frontiers of the internet and together with a dash of solid good music, voila, she struck gold. But can she stick around?

Will we ever see the likes of Madonna again? Admittedly, she hit a bum note this year as the oldest swinger in town, but her legacy keeps her from falling flat on her ass implants. With high street retailers like Zavvi and Tower Records going to the wall, like Popjustice said, if you're Il Divo, you'll be fine with your supermarket-friendly album. But if you're a new act like Frankmusik, how can you compete? Does Sam Sparro have to record a second album to stay around? And how do newer acts like Daggers break out of their MySpace page? The industry needs to look beyond even the idea of 'the album'. We could actually look to the past where it is all about 'the act' and their songs rather than album units shifted. The likes of Grace Jones, Cyndi Lauper, Pet Shop Boys, U2 and even Madonna probably don't need the album model anymore. They could be the vanguard for a new direction - one which will see artists thrive on the material they produce rather than how they package 15 tracks.

2009 will see a healthy mixture of old and new, but let's also talk up the acts who were the 'new for 2008'. Otherwise they'll get lost in the crush and we'll be back to square one. And on that note, here are my top 20 songs from 2008, and by the way, it's one song per artist...

1) More Man Than Man - ANTIGONE
For all her efforts - and this stonking track - Antigone deserves a number one. So here it is. She worked her Spandex socks off to get this track out there, through the blogosphere, live PAs and press interviews but mainstream radio and TV were just too bloody elusive. Radio DJs take note - Pete Tong and Jo Whiley, I mean you. Unfortunately Mr and Mrs Radio 1 still have tremendous power to break brilliant acts like Antigone.

2) The Loving Kind - GIRLS ALOUD
It's a no brainer, really. Pet Shop Boys + Girls Aloud = j'adore. And these girls are the perfect model for following Black Eyed Peas' example in 2009 by releasing a track every two months and doing away with an album altogether.

3) Hot Lips - PACIFIC!
With an accomplished set of tracks on their album Reveries - I can still talk the format - Pacific! could, and should be, as big as MGMT.

4) Airtight - COBRA DUKES
Way back in January, Cobra Dukes released this as a single and then... nuttin', save for a "We're back" notice about a gig in Glasgow with Sam Sparro in September. Stuck in MySpace hell, let's hope 2009 sees more material at least.

5) Embrace - PNAU featuring LADYHAWKE
Aren't they purdy? This duo have a knack for producing amazing songs which sit well alongside the clubbier dance tracks they can bang out with their eyes shut. But Ladyhawke's vocals took this track onto another, higher, level.

6) Kim and Jessie - M83
The band from Antibes are still criss-crossing the globe with their Saturdays = Youth tour. Singer Anthony Gonzalez has the cutest French accent on this beautiful late 80s-sounding power ballad produced by Tracey Thorn's collaborator, Ewan Pearson.

7) The One (Freemasons Mix) - KYLIE

The X song that got away. It should have been MUCH bigger.

8) My Delirium - LADYHAWKE

The bloggers' delight. She's what Katy Perry would love to be. Liked.

9) Pocket - SAM SPARRO
It's not just all black and gold.

10) Secrets and Lies - EMMON
This new track from Swedette, Emmon, came right at the end of the year, like an early Christmas pressie. Ta, love.

11) Big Bass - STARKILLERS
One of my holiday sounds driving around southern Spain. Sounds great in a club or a car. VFM. Value for money.

12) Vacant Heart - FRANKMUSIK

Not released, but it popped up on HisSpace and it's better than the official single 3 Little Words.

13) Nobody Lost, Nobody Found - CUT COPY

Modular, Cut Copy's label, deserve recognition for their services to music from the Southern hemisphere. The Presets and Ladyhawke in particular have taken the world by storm this year thanks to their herclian efforts. Mind you, they're not exactly blogger's friend. Posts and entire blogs disappear without a bye or leave if there's even a sniff of an track being made available for download...

14) I Fell in Love With a Drum Machine - PARRALOX
And this is the track that made me fall in love with them.

15) Sister Siam - THE WHIP
I veered from this track to the less dancey Sirens for this list, but Sister Siam won out just for the sheer energy of the live version.


On everyone's lists this year. They had a fistful of good tracks but an equal-sized fistful of rubbish.

17) We Are Technology - TECHNOLOGIC
Gorgeous minimal electro from the Pet Shop Boys-loving duo from Holland and Poland.


Hopefully he will fare better in 2009.

19) Wrapped Up in Plastic - ISABEL GUZMAN
Another Swedish electro pop queen, Isabel Guzman may have unintentinally funny lyrics on this track, but I love it so.

20) The Distance in Romance - KARATKORN

Despite a terrible name (in English, anyway) this Norwegian band have such a sweet song here and sung beautifully.

Honourable mentions:
JESSIE - Sexy Silk
DAGGERS - Better Than Love
THE PRESETS - This Boy's In Love
MADONNA - Give It 2 Me
CAPTAIN - Safe Harbour
FM BELFAST - Synthia.


xolondon said...

Thank you!

And a big hearty yeah for Antigone topping the list....

Paul said...

i'm always excited when people with infinitely cooler lists than myself share some of my fave songs/acts. I'm intruiged by your analysis of the music industry. I'd love for it to get back to the artist - there certainly needs to be a new model that considers the power of the internet but doesn't rely on it.

DanProject76 said...

I missed out on the Pnau/Ladyhawke track!


Phil said...

Ain't nuttin' 'cool' about this list Paul! It's almost Radio 2 when you think about it!

Anonymous said...

I don't even KNOW that Antigone track, Phil! I'll iTunes it. Great great list - we have a lot in common, huh?


Happy new Year


Adem With An E said...

KILLER list. Love that "Embrace" made it so high, such an incredible song.